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France says Iran missile test ran ‘contrary to spirit’ of nuclear deal

The medium-range ballistic missile was test-fired on Sunday, a US official told Reuters. The missile reportedly exploded after flying 1,013 kilometres, apparently because of a malfunction of its re-entry vehicle
French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, left, speaks during a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Tehran on January 31, 2017. Vahid Salemi / AP Photo
French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, left, speaks during a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Tehran on January 31, 2017. Vahid Salemi / AP Photo

Abu Dhabi // Iran was accused on Tuesday of acting against the spirit of the nuclear deal with world powers after carrying out a ballistic missile test.

The medium-range ballistic missile was test-fired on Sunday, a US official told Reuters. The missile reportedly exploded after flying 1,013 kilometres, apparently because of a malfunction of its re-entry vehicle.

It is not clear what missile type was tested and Iran has not confirmed the test even happened.

Speaking in Tehran, France’s foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said Paris had voiced its concerns over the test, and that such firings are “contrary to the spirit” of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 and “hamper the process of restoring confidence established by the Vienna agreement”.

The timing of the test was embarrassing for Mr Ayrault, who was in Tehran to reassure Iranian officials that Paris will uphold the deal between Iran and six world powers that eliminates the Islamic republic’s ability to quickly build a nuclear weapon, in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

A spokesman for the European Union, which helped broker the deal, appealed to Tehran to refrain from activities such as the missile tests “which deepen mistrust”.

The Iranian foreign minister said on Tuesday missile tests did not violate the deal.

“We hope that Iran’s defence programme is not used by the new US administration ... as a pretext to create new tensions,” Mohammed Jawad Zarif said during a joint press conference with Mr Ayrault.

“The missiles are not part of the nuclear accords,” Mr Zarif added. “Iran will never use missiles produced in Iran to attack any other country.”

Donald Trump vowed during his campaign to rip up the nuclear deal and renegotiate it, but told the king of Saudi Arabia on Sunday that his administration would “vigorously enforce” it instead.

The new US defence secretary has said Iran is the biggest threat in the region, and the new administration is expected to take a harder line on Iran’s regional projection of power than its predecessor.

One of the last major Iranian ballistic missile tests, of the Emad medium-range missile that featured Iran’s latest precision guidance technology, was conducted in late 2015 just before the nuclear deal was implemented, and was seen as a message that Tehran would not freeze development of its ballistic missile arsenal as part of the deal.

The latest test is also likely intended to send a similar message to the new resident of the White House.

UN security council resolution 2231, which covers the nuclear accord, had language inserted at the last minute which states that Iran is only “called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons”.

While the Obama administration initially said it viewed the ballistic missile tests as a violation – although it opposed new sanctions – Iran insisted that the missiles such as the Emad may have the capability to carry nuclear warheads but are not specifically designed for it, and that they are strictly for defensive deterrence.

“No Iranian missiles have been produced to carry nuclear warheads,” Mr Zarif said on Tuesday.

The UN Security Council held an emergency session requested by the United States on Tuesday to discuss the test.

Russia – a veto-wielding member of the council and signatory to the nuclear deal – has partnered with Iran in the Middle East and does not consider ballistic missile tests to be a violation of the deal. Mr Trump has said he hopes to coordinate more closely with Moscow in the fight against ISIL.

foreign.desk@thenational.ae

Updated: January 31, 2017 04:00 AM

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